When it matters to locals…

Many years ago, Bob Packwood represented Oregon in the US Senate despite a veritable career of sexual assault, often carried out in the US Capitol Building. Although the Oregonian, the largest newspaper in the state and one which likes to bill itself as the paper of record for Oregon, had the story, they declined to take it to press. IIRC, one reason for that decision was that they didn’t want to influence Packwood’s reelection bid by printing the story too close to November.

The Oregonian’s slogan at the time was, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in the Oregonian.” Naturally enough then, when the Washington Post printed the story of Packwood’s serial predations one immediately began to see bumper stickers around Portland stating, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in the Washington Post.”

This phenomenon isn’t unique to the Oregonian, however. There’s an old expression, “Don’t shit where you eat.” The message of the metaphor is that you don’t want to make a mess of the place where you live, because you’ll hurt yourself in the process. Though journalism writ broadly does like to hold powerful figures to account, it doesn’t like to do so if that’s going to make a mess of the places where journalists have to make a living.

As a result, it can sometimes be easier to get good, honest analysis of how fucked up your local situation might be when reading a news source based far away. The problem here is that the honest assessment and willingness to tell the truth even if it makes a local mess is combined with a lack of access to local facts. It’s simply harder to get all the details necessary for the analysis, even if it’s easier to do the analysis honestly once the facts are in place.

But every once in a while you’ll get good writing about your local situation in a foreign source that also managed to get access to all the most important facts, and when that happens it’s often the best reporting you can read.

Today, courtesy of Wonkette.com, I found my way to reporting in The Guardian on police violence in Los Angeles. The whole piece is worth reading, but the conclusion takes one’s breath away:

Lopez knew she wanted to get in engaged in local activism after watching George Floyd’s death. In June, she wrote to the mayor of Ontario, the southern California city where she lives, and outlined her own experiences with police over the years and the ways officers mistreat Black families like hers. She called on city leaders to stand up to systemic racism: “I tell you about us so that you are convinced that we matter.”

On 10 June, a police official responded to her email, thanking her for her words, but suggesting the George Floyd tragedy was unique and did not represent officers’ behavior.

The following day, police killed her father.

California god damn.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I didn’t get that far in before I hit a “what the F??????”.

    Despite the pandemic shutdowns and heightened attention to police brutality, LA law enforcement is killing civilians at a rate that appears to be fairly consistent with previous years

    Here’s the thing: I don’t know what it was like in LA in March, April or May. I know what it was like where I live in the UK at that time. The main north/south motorway that runs a mile from my house was empty, in rush hour and in the middle of the day, for weeks. I made a grand total of one trip into the centre of the city I live in during that time, and it was like “28 Days Later”, minus the rage-infected zombies – just a ghost town. There was just nobody about.

    If LA had any kind of lockdown, and the locals made any attempt to adhere to it, then the only interpretation of that blockquote above is that the cops were shooting basically everyone they saw. That’s the only possible way they could keep the numbers where they were in previous years.

    Bodycam footage should be available from ALL encounters between the police and the public, and in the event there’s no bodycam footage, that should be an automatic presumption that the officer is guilty of something. Just not having footage should be an automatic suspension without pay, AND positive evidence of malign intent. Something needs to be done to motivate these people to have the footage. Oh, you say he went for you? Let’s see the footage. You don’t have it? Then presumption is that you’re guilty. You can be damn sure they’d make sure those cameras were running the first time one of them went to prison for “losing” the footage or accidentally not recording anything.

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